Court Issues Injunction Against Wikileaks.org

A federal court on Friday issued an injunction (pdf) disabling the internet domain name of Wikileaks.org, the anti-censorship web site devoted to publication of leaks and other unauthorized disclosures of information.

The move followed a complaint by Bank Julius Baer, a Swiss bank, that Wikileaks had published confidential bank records that are protected by law. The offending documents were itemized in a temporary restraining order (pdf) also issued by the court on February 15.

Those documents are whistleblower records that reveal “trust structures allegedly used for tax evasion, asset hiding and money laundering by the ultra rich,” according to Wikileak’s Julian Assange, who protested what he said was an “unconstitutional” blockage of the wikileaks domain name.

Wikileaks is intended to provide “an uncensorable system for untraceable mass document leaking and public analysis,” according to the web site, and its often controversial contents have been mirrored by dozens of other sites around the world, which remain operational.

“Anti-censorship servers operating in foreign jurisdictions have kicked in successfully,” wrote Mr. Assange after the court issued its order, “but ‘wikileaks.org’ has been forcibly deleted from the domain name system.”

Judge Jeffrey S. White of the Northern District of California scheduled a hearing on the matter for February 29.

It is too early to say who has won or lost more in this confrontation. Wikileaks has demonstrated the willingness and the ability to sustain a robust publication capability in defiance of legal authority, though it may have lost its domain name for the foreseeable future. Bank Julius Baer, whom most people would have never heard of, will now be permanently linked in many minds with vague allegations of financial misconduct.

But the disclosure restrictions that wikileaks managed to defeat were not exactly those of a tyrannical government bent on censorship. They were banking secrecy laws that protect ordinary people as well as corporate malefactors. And by providing the occasion for the court’s extraordinary action, Wikileaks has helped set an unfortunate precedent that may make the next court injunction against a public web site that much easier to obtain.

Additional details on the case are available from cryptome.org and wikileak.org (without the “s”). See also the stories at TPM Muckraker, Discourse.net, and Wired Threat Level, among others.

No Responses to “Court Issues Injunction Against Wikileaks.org”

  1. Lucy Komisar February 19, 2008 at 5:59 PM #

    Re: “They were banking secrecy laws that protect ordinary people as well as
    corporate malefactors.”

    You are wrong about this. The bank secrecy laws are set up to protect crooks. What kind of ordinary people have to hide their money in accounts that don’t list the names of real owners, that don’t cooperate with international law enforcement on the trails of drug traffickers, corporate fraudsters like the Enron folks, million-dollar tax evaders and the like?

    That have “flee clauses” so that if law enforcement is on the trail, the
    accounts are sent to other offshore places? Liechtenstein, for example.

    How do banking secrecy laws protect ordinary people? Ordinary people keep
    their accounts at home, where there are normal laws that say that accounts
    are private except for law enforcement with judicial orders. I suspect that neither you nor I feel a need to put money in Grand Cayman.

    Lucy Komisar, Co-chair Tax Justice Network-USA

  2. jhm February 21, 2008 at 9:23 AM #

    Pardon my ignorance, but does this erase the ‘wikileaks.org’ DNS lookup only? in other words, could one bypass the restraint by knowing the actual address of the server?

    I’m not at all sure, even if this were the case, if security concerns don’t lead people to regularly change the actual address in the DNS lookup, so perhaps it’s a distinction without a difference.

    [That's right. The wikileaks site is still online and accessible at http://88.80.13.160/wiki/Wikileaks. --SA]

  3. Anon February 22, 2008 at 1:05 PM #

    Lucy –

    Who has to worry about hiding assets? Within living memory, and in the midst of “civilized Europe” try Jews living in Nazi Germany.

  4. Steve March 15, 2009 at 9:06 PM #

    I agree that the government does have their fascist tendencies, but if you had that much money, do NOT tell me you would try to be creative and try to get away with paying less tax. Yes, this includes moving money around, opening accounts and shifting other assets. if you say no, you’re a liar. When your net worth closely resembles an international long distance number, then come back on here and tell us you are paying all the taxes you should. If you come back complaining, then you’re just jealous and do not have the proper mindset to make that much money and you should stay out of it. I am a big advocate of privacy, but understand some things, the public should know…stop trying to show the things we already know.

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